Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent
To All The Ships at Sea,
Seventy years ago today my friend Jess Weiss stormed the Omaha Beach along with tens of thousands of 18-30 year old Americans. Jess explained to me (and he did not like talking about it) he watched thousands killed or wounded that day. He came home with a silver and bronze star, two oak leaf clusters and two purple hearts. He was one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever known and a true visionary. I’m genuinely blessed to have called him a friend.
The above black and white I believe to be a public domain photo. I marked copyright unknown.
While sailing off the coast of France this is what Normandy looks like today.
There are many people who judge their wealth by how much money they have in stocks, bonds, bank accounts, the size of their automobiles and how many summer homes they have. I’m not going to question them for the simple reason I am one of the richest men in the world. There are only 8 or 9 people who can verify that. I became this wealthy because of great friendships. The oldest living friend I have , since Will Barnet has gone onto his studio in the sky at 101 years old. It now brings me to Jess Weiss my second oldest friend. The great part is he’s alive and well. The first time I stepped into his office I noticed there was a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt thanking him for his bravery and next to the letter was the Silver Star, Purple Heart and several other Medals which unfortunately, I’m not familiar with. That was approximately 20 years ago. I said to Jess, “my God you’re a hero” and he looked at me and said, “no I’m a coward.” Like most true heroes they never speak of the war. They lived it and bled with it and it’s imbedded in every fiber of their being forever and probably will remain with them to the next level of consciousness. He explained he saw 3,000 men die that day and during the balance of the war about another 7,000 men. He never elaborated on why he received all the medals he did. Jess was there for me when my mother, father, my son and my brother died. His words of wisdom, his teaching allowed me to go on and not give up. That translates into an infinite amount of money. Obviously the money is meaningless but the friendship is worth everything. So on the 69th Anniversary of the D Day Invasion I take my Beret off to my dear friend Jess Weiss. Monday he will be attending a dinner held by the French consulate and will be giving a short speech on Omaha Beach. I hope they’re not disappointed because Jess is not only one of the bravest men I know, but one of the humblest as well . God is truly in him. The French Government has just bestowed this Medal for Jess’s outstanding service 69 years ago on Omaha Beach. Thank you my friend. All Americans and all Frenchmen thank you.
I would like to wish everybody a healthy happy, new year (hey idiot, it’s the 15th-where have you been?!) Sorry guys, the last 45 days have been brutal, and I’m not going to go there today. I decided to take Saturday off, and I went to visit my former English professor/football coach, who has just been admitted to the Stoney Brook VA Nursing Home. It was the best 60 seconds and the worst 19.5 minutes I’ve ever spent in my life. I’ve loved this man for 50 plus years, and I’ve resolved myself to the fact that will be the last time I get to see him. I drove 7 miles to see one of my former assistants, he showed my three photographs that blew my head off. They were just gorgeous. He explained how he did them,why he did them, not that he had to; the photographs did not require any information, they moved me from a very negative place to a very good place. 15 miles west and an hour later, I went to see my oldest friend Pat Nap and he looked great! In the day he was a great football player and a world-class amateur wrestler, and ya know what, he still looks great today. OK-this moves us another hour and a half down the road and I stopped by to see my spiritual advisor, Jess Weiss. We had three or four emails in the last week, and three or four phone calls. His lovely bride of 38 years passed away four weeks ago. I went to see him because he’s my hero. The first time I walked into his office, above his desk was the silver star and ten other medals. I told him he was a true hero. He explained to me that he was a coward. He felt guilty that he left Omaha Beach alive during the D-day invasion and thousands of his brothers did not. Jess has written five books, I strongly recommend reading one of them or more…he’s not only a true hero, but he’s a visionary. He is one of the most spiritual people I have ever met. His 97th birthday is in two weeks and looking into his eyes, I saw a 20 year old man. Thank God for Jess. My life partner JoAnne Kalish reminds me that I’m a photographer and filmmaker and that my blogs should be about photography and filmmaking. This blog IS about communication and respect and history. That’s what photography is. I remember someone telling me, life is hills and valleys. In twelve hours I went from the highest mountain to the lowest peak and back to the highest mountain, so I guess that person was right. LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Please spend every second you can enjoying what you have.